Monday, March 7, 2011
RIGHTEOUSNESS.... God is moved by the motives of our heart not the work of our hands.
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:20
The above scripture was spoken by Jesus while ministering to the people on how to live in a way that would please God. He taught truths that many people had never heard before because Jesus operated with a spirit of wisdom and a spirit of understanding which confounded the religious folks and amazed everyone else. Before Jesus began his ministry, the teaching of that day came from the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes.
The Pharisees were a religious Jewish group that zealously followed the Old Testament laws, as well as their own religious traditions. They were highly respected in their communities and most people feared them. The scribes or teachers were learned in the Mosaic law and in sacred writings. Luke 11:52 (Jesus speaking) “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” As religious experts, they did not recognize who was among them, namely Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. And further, they had prevented people from knowing God by enforcing people to live under the law and their traditions.
"We must do more than they, and better than they, or we shall come short of heaven. They (religious leaders) were partial in the law, and laid most stress upon the ritual part of it; but we must be universal, and not think it enough to give the priest his tithe, but must give God our hearts. They minded only the outside, but we must make conscience of inside godliness. They aimed at the praise and applause of men, but we must aim at acceptance with God: they were proud of what they did in religion, and trusted to it as a righteousness; but we, when we have done all, must deny ourselves, and say, We are unprofitable servants, and trust only to the righteousness of Christ; and thus we may go beyond the scribes and Pharisees" (Matthew Henry Concordance).
John the Baptist said in John 1:26 “…but among you stands one you do not know.” Sadly, today many who appear to be spiritual do not truly know God. They may know about God, but if you do not personally know Him by inviting Jesus to come live in your heart, to forgive you of your sins and to be the Lord of your life, then you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Remember, Jesus is not so much interested in all the things you do or your outward appearance before man, but most interested in the condition of your heart. To man, we may appear to be kind, generous, knowledgeable in the things of God, but God knows if our hearts are angry, unforgiving, unloving, and untouched by Him.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at, Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7. The context of this scripture refers to the Lord’s choosing of the next King of Israel who would be David, son of Jesse. Jesse did not see what God saw in his young son. When Samuel the Priest and Prophet came to Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.” This was the case for all of David’s brothers. David was the one who had a heart after God (Acts 13:22). God is moved by the motives of our heart not the work of our hands.
So how does Matthew 5:20 apply to us today? Model yourself after Jesus and not people. Don’t look at people’s deeds and their knowledge as “righteousness” to be obtained. Keep your eye on Jesus and may your righteousness (integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking, feeling and acting; the condition acceptable to God) be your standard and your motivation. As long as you are in Him and looking to Him, you will certainly not miss the Kingdom of Heaven where the Lord we serve reigns.
Pray, right now, that the Lord will cause His Righteousness to grow in you. May His grace, which is his divine influence upon your heart, be poured out upon you, rise up in you, and flow out from you to others as you walk in relationship with him. May that relationship not be full of activity to appease him and others, but may your motivation be to please him and love him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). May you walk in relationship with Jesus moment by moment till you see him face to face in the age to come.